Mothers hold great sway over their children’s lives.
School. Nutrition. Transportation. Friends. Bedtime. These are all situations that mothers research and plan to make the best possible choices for their kids.
So why not football?
For many women, football is a man’s domain – a place where they trust that dad or the coach knows what he is doing and are happy to watch from the stands.
But through Heads Up FootballSM, more and more moms are educating themselves about the sport and making better decisions for their children. They are separating fact from fiction, reality from speculation.
“It’s very important that you understand as much as you can,” said Sandriena Brown (pictured) of Los Angeles, whose 10-year-old son Jalen plays for the Santa Monica Vikings. “We need to be more than spectators. I take that to heart. Not every mom has to have an active part on the field, but if we see or hear something from a coach or another parent that we don’t like, we can’t be afraid to step forward.
“We have a voice, and we should use it.”
A mother would never send her child to a music teacher she knows nothing about or an after-school care she’s never visited.
It’s the same way for football, Brown said.
As the mother of a player in a Heads Up Football league, Brown learned hands-on about tackling techniques and equipment fitting during a Heads Up Football Safety Clinic for parents and players. She now recognizes the signs and symptoms of concussion and the importance of seeking medical help if she suspects her son or another player may have suffered one.
These are all things she didn’t know a year ago.
“I’m much more comfortable with football,” she said. “By learning Heads Up Tackling, I’m more confident that the chance of my son getting severely hurt is lessened. You can never totally rule it out, but if we can lessen the chance, we have to do it.”
Some moms think that because they never played football, they shouldn’t have a say in safety protocols.
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This is the wrong approach, according to Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, a Chicago neuropsychologist with NorthShore University HealthSystem and mother of two boys.
Pieroth said moms can’t turn a blind eye to subjects they don’t have first-hand knowledge in. The health of their children is too important.
“If your child is engaged in any sport, you have to make sure that it is being taught a safer way,” Pieroth said. “Look, the men coaching your son or daughter may not know either.”
Through Heads Up Football, all coaches – head and assistant – are required to pass USA Football’s Coaching Certification Program, which includes sections on Heads Up Tackling, equipment fitting and concussion recognition and response.
All Heads Up Football leagues are required to have a Player Safety Coach, who ensures compliance with Heads Up Football safety protocols and conducts safety clinics for coaches, players and parents.
These are topics that Denise Wayne – mother of Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne – learned as her son progressed through youth, high school, college and professional levels.
Wayne’s husband is a high school athletics director and football coach. She knows not all women have that kind of resource on hand, so they must do what they can to educate themselves.
“I wanted to know what was going on,” said Wayne, who is president of the Professional Football Players Mothers’ Association. “I gained all the knowledge I could.”
And with knowledge comes responsibility.
“When they are young, you have to monitor them and sit them down if they get a concussion or are injured in any way,” Wayne said. “As a parent, you have to step forward and say, ‘This is the way it is until your body heals.’
“Even now, as concussion started being talked about more frequently, I started learning more and reading more. I told Reggie, ‘You’ve got to be smart when you have a concussion. You can’t jump up and go right back out there. You have to have healing, and that means time. You don’t want to get a second one.’ ”
Understanding football can seem overwhelming at first, Pieroth said, but it’s like any new endeavor a parent and child begins together.
Moms – whether stay-at-home or working – are busy and can’t become an expert in everything their kids do.
“That’s what makes USA Football and Heads Up Football so great,” Pieroth said. “They put all the information online for you.”
And above all, be honest about what you know and what you don’t know.
“Every parent has a comfort level with risk when it comes to their children, and that is up to each parent to decide,” Pieroth said. “By arming themselves with education, taking the fear of the unknown out of it and making the decision as a family, they will come to the right decision for them.”